Elon Musk: Tesla Autopilot system 'prevented severe injury' in 60mph crash

Andrew Cummings
May 15, 2018

A photo released by the South Jordan Police Department shows a traffic collision involving a Tesla Model S sedan with a Fire Department mechanic truck.

While consumers nationwide have reason to be on edge when it comes to the fast-growing self-driving auto industry, Tesla's Autopilot feature has been a hot button issue for some time now, despite the company touting it as "the future of driving".

"It's super messed up that a Tesla crash resulting in a broken ankle is front page news and the ~40,000 people who died in US auto accidents alone in past year get nearly no coverage", Musk tweeted.

A Tesla sedan with a semi-autonomous Autopilot feature has rear-ended a fire department truck at 60 miles per hour (97 kph) apparently without braking before impact, but police say it's unknown if the Autopilot feature was engaged.

While a Tesla spokesperson failed to comment following the accident, the company's co-founder Elon Musk took to Twitter to note that it was "super messed up" that the latest accident had garnered so much public attention, while accidents involving traditional cars "get nearly no coverage".

Responding to a user who indicated that Tesla's autopilot function still needs safety tweaking, Musk stated: "It certainly needs to be better & we work to improve it every day, but flawless is enemy of good". The driver of the fire truck was evaluated for whiplash but was not checked into the hospital. "An impact that speed usually results in severe injury or death".

The NTSB and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are investigating at least two other crashes involving Tesla vehicles.

The National Transportation Safety Board has not opened an investigation into the crash, spokesman Keith Holloway said, though it could decide to do so. Last week, the independent federal agency opened a probe into a Model S that caught fire after crashing into a wall In Florida.

Two 18-year-olds were trapped in the vehicle and killed in the flames. Tesla subsequently modified both the hardware and software used by the semi-autonomous system.

In March, a Tesla Model X was on autopilot mode when it collided with a barrier on Highway 101 in Mountain View, Calif., killing the 38-year-old driver.

In April, Musk was asked by "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King, "what's the goal of having autopilot if you still have to put your hands on the wheel?"

With the latest crash in Utah, it will draw additional scrutiny, and apparently Tesla CEO Elon Musk thought it was time to defend the feature. "It is not a self-driving system", Musk said. A driver was behind the wheel of the test vehicle in that case but failed to halt in time.

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